Arvin Union: First District in Kern County to Declare Safe Haven Status Pre-Trump

More than 100 school districts in the state have passed “safe haven” resolutions vowing to protect students from federal immigrations officers as much as they can.

Several more high-profile school districts, such as Sacramento City Unified and Los Angeles Unified, have become synonymous with these resolutions. Fear and immigration anxiety from students after the election, and even leading up to it, prompted several other districts to attack the issue head on and pass resolutions of their own.

However, one district that hasn’t seem to have gotten its due recognition is Arvin Union in Kern County. The district passed a resolution in October 2016, long before most other districts did, and before the election even took place, making them the first in the county to do so.

At the time of the resolution passing, Superintendent Dr. Michelle McLean issued a letter to families and staff reassuring them of the efforts the district is taking to “provide an education to all students who live in our community.” The letter also explains what can and cannot be done by the district to protect its more than 3,000 students:

We promise you that we will never inquire about a student’s immigration status. We do not require students to apply for social security numbers nor do we ask that such numbers are supplied, and we will not refer parents or students to ICE if they have question about their immigration status. Additionally, the School Board has found that the presence of ICE is likely to lead to a disruption of the educational setting, and any requests by ICE to visit a school site will be forwarded to me for review before a decision is made to allow access to the site.

The proclamation from the district falls in line with the ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe which has been cited by multiple districts in their resolutions. Before the start of the new year, Superintendent Tom Torlakson issued a letter, also citing the court case, to all school district officials asking for them to declare themselves safe havens. Since then, CalSchoolNews has documented 100 more school districts who have passed sanctuary-like resolutions.

Last month, the Department of Education started compiling their own list of safe havens, which reveal only 60 districts. Arvin Union is one of the districts missing from the list despite being a pioneer on the issue.

According to Superintendent McLean the district has submitted their resolution twice to Tom Torlakson’s office, but has yet to see any result. We’ll let you know if the state department’s list changes in the future.

View our growing Safe Haven Districts list, and email us if we have missed yours.